From his bench at Vista Hermosa Park, Juan Vasquez can see all of Downtown Los Angeles. Its streets and buildings ripple with the energy, hopes and dreams of those who live and work there. But from here, all he can see is the surface.
At work, he can see what lies inside. As data programs manager for the City of L.A.’s office of finance, Juan deals with the vast spools of data that describe who we are, what we want and what challenges we seek to overcome.
A single data point might not tell you much. But, viewed together, they tell important stories, reveal patterns and suggest innovative solutions to the issues we care about most.
“Our approach to solving big societal problems has been changed by data,” Juan says. “Competitive leaders want data to be a part of every policy conversation.”
That’s why Juan serves on the advisory board for LA Counts. Launched in 2018 by the California Community Foundation, LA Counts connects users with thousands of open data sets about Los Angeles and stories about why that data matters. By doing so, the site aims to drive greater investment in L.A.’s needs while expanding access to open data. It’s data for advocacy and advocacy for data.
This annual report celebrates everyone who dedicates their efforts and resources to address the challenges of Los Angeles and realize the limitless potential of its residents. Just like those datapoints, we are strongest when we come together. Apart, we can make some impact. But, when we join forces across sectors and communities, we can make a lasting difference and create a better future for all.
No issue demonstrates this more than the 2020 U.S. Census. The data it generates will touch every aspect of our lives, driving 80 percent of California’s federal funding. Looking out at downtown, Juan understands just how much that matters.
“The census will impact social programs, infrastructure projects,” Juan said. “If people don’t participate, the programs they rely on might not be there anymore.”
Most importantly, the Census creates an honest picture of what’s happening in our communities and how they’re changing over time. It’s the story of us, and we all have a role to play in telling it.